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Blame it on the tequila!

The zest of lime with a smashing tequila tail. The Tequila Sunrise is a hit among those north and south of the border.

The zest of lime with a smashing tequila tail. The Tequila Sunrise is a hit among those north and south of the border.

The origins of most well-known cocktails are contested but none so much as the simple Tequila Sunrise.

On one side of the picket fence you have the state of Arizona swearing blue in the face that the first sunrise was muddled at the Biltmore in the 1930s.

Others will claim it was born in the grit of Tijuana’s gambling district.

What ever side of the debate, or rather border, you sit on there is no contesting that the tequila sunrise will always be a welcome guest on nights that are rarely remembered.

Born in Arizona


Poolside at the Biltmore. Image Source:

The Biltmore, Arizona was a hub for celebrities and glamour queens in the 30s and 40s.

And Gene Sulit, bartender extraordinaire, knew that his mixing skills could be used as a golden ticket to brush shoulders with the A-Listers.

One day (as most cocktail legends begin) a stranger (also often cast in the lead role of most cocktail legends) sat down at Sulit’s bar and mentioned how much he loved tequila and Arizona sunsets.

Sulit, inspired by the man’s simplicity, created a drink with a beautiful twist. Resembling a sunset, with a little lime, a shot of tequila and a splash of Crème de Cassis, the Tequila Sunrise was born.

Simple right?

Tijuana, baby!


A touch of Tijuana at the Agua Caliente. Image Source:

Not so!

A little south of the border, in Tijuana, locals will argue that the bar at Agua Caliente has the stake to claim.

Born in the prohibition era, the Tequila Sunrise was concocted as a way of appeasing fun-hungry Californians with a shot of liquor concealed behind a pretty veil of red.

Now in your living room

We say that the best way to settle this dispute is to put bar against bar and try both recipes at home.

Will Biltmore’s more refined mix sway you?

Or will it be the sweet dash of grenadine that will make you head south?

The Arizona Recipe:

30 ml premium blanco Tequila
15 ml Crème de Cassis
Soda water
Fresh lime
Orange wheel, for garnish.

The Tijuana twist:

A shot of tequila
Half a lime, squeezed. Insert peel.
Six dashes grenadine.
Two dashes Crème de Cassis.

To serve:

Serve in a highball glass, filled with seltzer, stir slightly making sure that you maintain the layers of ingredients.

Here’s a video from Food Court with yet another origin tale and a few tips to perfect your mix:

What side of the tequila sunrise debate do you sit?